Image via Heritage Auctions
The New Yorker Since over a hundred years, readers have been waiting for the next cartoon. But no other illustration has struck a chord throughout generations like Peter Steiner’s 1993 Cyberdog. Now, the panel—the most reprinted cartoon in the history of the magazine—is slated to go under the hammer at Heritage Auctions On October 6, the art auction will offer up to US$50,000.
The two dogs in the picture in front of a computer, the cartoon is underscored with the caption: “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”
The internet Back in the early 1990s, they were uncharted territory. Today, they’re inescapable. The one-liner is still popular despite the dramatic changes to the tech world. The appeal of voicing your thoughts under a cloak of anonymity speaks to all, no matter if your core memories are shaped by Waaazzzuuuuppp’s or TikTok dance trends.
The Most Reprinted Cartoon in ‘New Yorker’ History Barks Up Heritage’s Illustration Art Event in October!
— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) September 15, 2023
Many of the same principles apply to many overnight internet sensations, this cartoon’s perennial success was pretty much an accident. Scant on ideas to meet his weekly cartoon quota for the magazine, Steiner often kicked off his process by sketching an image and then coming up with a caption for it later (the opposite method seems to be the choice for today’s art, much of which is AI-generated).
Steiner drew a Picture of two dogs sitting in front of a PC, one in a chair and the other on the ground. The punchline was added on a whim and submitted as an aside gag. The artist was shocked to discover that the joke had been selected.
The cartoon didn’t Catch on immediately. Soon buried along with the rest New Yorker It was, to put it mildly, an underdog. As time passed, however, it began to appear on t-shirts, mugs and even in other magazines. And now, it’s commanding a lofty US$50,000 sum.
Looking at something is astonishment back, Steiner now realizes the illustration “wasn’t about the internet at all,” he tells The auction house
“It was about my sense that I’m getting away with something,” the artist elaborates. He’d gotten this revelation only recently.
“I realized the cartoon is autobiographical and that it’s about being an imposter or feeling like an imposter,” Steiner notes. “I’ve had several checkered careers, and in every one, I felt like a bit of a fraud. I mean, I think many people have that syndrome, the sense that, yeah, I’ve got everybody fooled: ‘They think I know what I’m doing, and they think I’m good at this.’ So for me, this morning, that was a kind of interesting revelation this late in the game.”
And even after Steiner, who has created hundreds of cartoons over the course of his career is confident that this illustration will highlight his obituary.
The Artist has made peace with the knowledge that he could “one day be eulogized solely as the guy who drew ‘On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Dog,’” according to Heritage Auctions.